Exit poll results from the 2021 election for Virginia governor

Updated Nov. 3 at 4:24 p.m.Originally published Nov. 2, 2021

Who won each group

Groups that candidates won by six or more percentage points

Terry McAuliffe
Glenn Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe in the gubernatorial election fueled by support from political independents, negative ratings of President Biden and voters focused on the economy and education, according to Virginia exit poll results.

Democrats and Republicans turned out in similar numbers in the race, and both groups overwhelmingly supported their party’s candidate, leaving independents to swing the race. They favored Youngkin by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin, exit polls showed, a big swing from the 2020 presidential election, when Biden win independents by 19 points.

[Youngkin wins Virginia governor’s race as red wave washes across the state]

Youngkin was also aided by Biden’s negative job approval ratings in the commonwealth, and the Republican had favorable ratings even among some voters who were unfavorable of former President Trump. Voters said the economy and education were the most important issues facing the state; Youngkin led McAuliffe among both groups, and led economy voters by double digits. Youngkin also out-performed Trump’s 2020 showing among several key groups.

See where Youngkin shifted the vote across Virginia

Read below to see how different groups voted in the governor’s race and how their support compares with support for Biden and Trump in the 2020 Virginia exit poll. The poll was conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. See the bottom of the page for exit poll methodology.

Economy and jobs were top issues for Virginia voters

One-third of Virginia voters said that the economy was the most important issue facing Virginia, according to network exit polling. That was followed by about one-quarter naming education as the most important issue in their vote. Fifteen percent each said taxes or the coronavirus were their top issues, and 8 percent said abortion.

A majority of Virginia voters said the economy in the state was either “excellent” or “good,” with almost half saying it was good, rather than excellent, according to exit polling. Just over 4 in 10 said the economy was “not so good” or “poor.”

[Live election results from Virginia]

How much parents should influence school curriculums

About half of Virginia voters said parents should have “a lot” of say in what their child’s school teaches, while roughly 3 in 10 said parents should have “some” say, and just over 1 in 10 said parents should have little or no say.

Voters who said parents should have a lot of say supported Youngkin by a 77 percent to 22 percent margin, while those who said parents should have some say supported McAuliffe by a similar 77 percent to 23 percent margin. An 86 percent majority of those who said parents should have little or no say supported McAuliffe.

Public schools became an increasingly important issue late in the campaign, when Youngkin criticized McAuliffe for vetoing a bill that would give parents the right to opt their children out of certain reading assignments. The bill arose out of a parent’s concern about “Beloved,” the 1987 novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison about a Civil War-era Black woman who kills her 2-year-old daughter to spare the child from the evils of slavery. Youngkin said it was an effort to impose the will of the state on parents. McAuliffe said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Vaccine mandates

A slight majority of Virginia voters favored employers requiring coronavirus vaccination for their employees. More than 8 in 10 voters said they had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Both Trump and Biden drag on their party’s candidates

Donald Trump lost Virginia by 10 percentage points in 2020, and network exit polls suggest that he remains unpopular in the state. Four in 10 Virginia voters had a favorable view of Trump, while a slight majority viewed him unfavorably. McAuliffe sought to tie Youngkin to Trump throughout the campaign — a Washington Post-Schar School poll released last week found about 7 in 10 likely voters saying Youngkin’s ideas and policies were similar to Trump’s, while about 2 in 10 said they were different.

But Biden proved a significant drag on McAuliffe, with exit polls finding voters disapproved of the president’s performance by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin. A 90 percent majority of voters who disapproved of Biden supported Youngkin for governor.

Full exit poll results


These are the final results from the National Election Pool exit poll, a survey of 3,899 randomly selected voters as they exited voting locations in Virginia on Nov. 2 and during the early voting period, as well as early voters contacted by email, text message and by live phone interviewers from a database of Virginia’s registered voters. The poll was conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations.

Scott Clement is the polling director for The Washington Post, conducting national and local polls about politics, elections and social issues. He began his career with the ABC News Polling Unit and came to The Post in 2011 after conducting surveys with the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project.
Emily Guskin is the polling analyst at The Washington Post, specializing in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy. Before joining The Post in 2016, she was a research manager at APCO Worldwide and prior to that, she was a research analyst at the Pew Research Center's Journalism Project.
Madison Dong is a graphics reporter for The Washington Post. She previously worked with The Post's engineering and design teams, as well as The Texas Tribune and The Wall Street Journal.